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In this guest blog post, member Beatrice Tiangco describes some of the pain and suffering in the Philippines after the typhoon and expresses her gratitude for the SPM, local community and overall support. Beatrice Tiangco is a practicing Medical Oncologist from the Philippines. She is also a Clinical Epidemiologist with a special interest in Personalized Medicine and Patient Empowerment. She is a Past President of the Philippine Society of Medical Oncology and is currently Assistant Director of The Medical City Cancer Center and Head of the Section of Medical Oncology in the same hospital.

My family and I live in Manila, in the northern part of the Philippines, on the large island called Luzon, and we were not affected by the storm. The Visayas was hit hard–this group of islands lies south of Luzon, in between Luzon and the southern most huge island called Mindanao. All in all, we are 7100 islands, more during low tide :-) They say 10,000 have died, and thousands more are homeless, and sadness and desolation threatens the lives of the survivors who have lost family and property, with a slower kind of death, that caused by illness or by loss of hope.

But even storm clouds have silver linings, and we are overwhelmed with gratitude, our cups runneth over, by the overwhelming support from friends in many countries, including the United States. And these are not token rescue efforts but sincere ones from all over the world, and of course from my countrymen too. We have a local word for this spirit of community and helping each other, usually depicted by the able bodied folks carrying a neighbor’s house from one location to another (symbolizing team work), and it is “Bayanihan“. This has and continues to show through during this crisis. This is what will sustain the survivors. We have a sculpture of this in our Cancer Center, symbolizing our Team effort in caring for our patients, the house, of course, representing the patient who needs to be helped and cared for, in his time of illness and need.

I am a medical oncologist and a researcher. As a medical oncologist I do what i can to help cancer patients and guide them through their journey with their illness. As a researcher, with a background in Clinical Epidemiology, I gather and analyze data and use what I learn to try and extend the life of my patients, or at least allow them to have the best quality of life, as they define it. I believe the empowered patient makes both the practice of medicine and the search for truth (research) easier, which is why this has become my passion, especially since I joined the Society for Participatory Medicine (S4PM).

I am taking this opportunity to give feedback on how S4PM has affected me and my clinical practice in a positive way since I joined. My eyes have opened to a perspective I would otherwise not have seen (that of the patient and advocate) and I have used what I learned in concrete ways. In fact I have put Patient Empowerment as a measurable goal for our cancer center for 2014. We intend to measure it by the counting the (increase in) participation in survivorship programs, number of email queries requesting for second opinions, number of Multidisciplinary conferences requested by patients, etc.  It is not always easy to change the practice of Medicine from how we learned to do it in Med School (paternalistic) to Evidence Based to Innovative to Molecular and now Personalized Medicine, but by constantly bringing back the focus on the patient, as reiterated again and again by S4PM, this task, like weathering the storm, becomes less daunting. Thank you S4PM!


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